What Is Addiction? Definition, Signs, Treatment, and More – K3 Engineering Solutions

What Is Addiction? Definition, Signs, Treatment, and More

When someone eats a piece of chocolate, the brain can find it very pleasurable and it stimulates the reward center in the brain. Because of this, a person is much more likely to want to eat chocolate regularly in the future. Although there are some schools of thought that stress the need for complete abstinence, many people are able to learn to control addictive behaviors, such as drinking, eating, shopping, and sex. The approach that will be best for you depends on many factors and is best decided in collaboration with your doctor or therapist. The clinical manifestation of abrupt cessation of a substance of abuse is withdrawal.

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Addiction is a complex, chronic brain condition influenced by genes and the environment that is characterized by substance use or compulsive actions that continue despite harmful consequences. Withdrawal symptoms occur when drug use is abruptly stopped or the dosage is sharply diminished. They occur because the brain is an adaptive organ (which permits learning of all kinds), and in response to the repeated presence of a psychoactive substance, the brain undergoes changes in neurotransmitter activity and receptor sensitivity in various systems. When use of that substance stops abruptly, cessation disrupts all the adaptations to that substance the brain has made; over time, it will adapt to absence of the drug—but that process takes time. To diagnose addiction, your healthcare provider may refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist or drug and alcohol counselor.

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The common but mistaken view of addiction as a brain disease suggests that there is some malfunction in the brain that leads to addiction. Studies show that repeated use of a substance (or an activity), encouraged by a surge in dopamine, creates changes in the wiring of the brain—and those changes are reversible after drug use stops. Prolonged stress during childhood dysregulates the normal stress response and, through overproduction of cortisol, is especially harmful to adult children of alcoholics the brain’s hippocampus, impairing memory and learning. Severe or sustained early life adversity shifts the course of brain development and can lastingly impair emotion regulation and cognitive development. What is more, it can sensitize the stress response system so that it overresponds to minimal levels of threat, making people feel easily overwhelmed by life’s normal difficulties. Research shows a strong link between ACEs and opioid drug abuse as well as alcoholism.

  1. There is an important distinction between drug addiction vs. drug dependence.
  2. There are a lot of terms involved that, while related, mean different things.
  3. A cardinal sign of addiction is not being unable to control consumption of alcohol/drug—even when wanting to.
  4. Further, by changing the responsiveness of dopamine receptors, methamphetamine blunts the experience of reward from normal sources of pleasure.

Distinction between psychological and physical dependence

Researchers have long demonstrated the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in addiction and its effects on the brain’s reward center. As with other addictions, it plays a role in behavioral addictions like compulsive shopping or binge eating. Addiction is not limited to biochemical substances such as cocaine, alcohol, inhalants, or nicotine.

Just as recovery from addiction requires focusing on rewarding activities other than drug use, so does prevention. Neuroscience research supports the idea that addiction is a habit that becomes deeply entrenched and self-perpetuating, rewiring the circuitry of the brain as it is repeated. The repetition of a highly pleasurable experience—drugs, gambling—alters neurons; they adjust their wiring to alcohol use: weighing risks and benefits become increasingly efficient at the experience. As drug use stops, engaging in other rewarding activities rewires the brain to find interest and pleasure in non-drug pursuits. With daily or near-daily substance use, a person’s body becomes physically dependent on the drug(s) of choice. As a substance leaves the body, physical dependence leads to drug cravings and subsequent withdrawal symptoms.

One result is impaired judgment, decision-making, and impulse control, a hallmark of addiction. It is frequently said that addiction occurs when drugs “hijack” the brain. It’s hard to nail down what that means, but it does rightly suggest that there is an involuntary takeover of the brain that compromises decision-making and diminishes freedom of choice, making quitting difficult even in the face of desire to do so.

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While new spiritual, therapeutic, or self-care practices have been added into their recovery plan, there may be resistance from self-help group members. Those in the integration and fulfillment stages of recovery often experience acclimation to their current pathway and may be seeking something to reinvigorate their program. Everyone’s recovery patchwork is unique, and while some may share similarities, it is okay to think outside of the box and add or shift the process. It is advisable to include your therapist, coach, or mentor around these adjustments in order to be sure they are comprehensive enough to support your specific recovery needs. As a person continues to use drugs, the brain adapts by reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it.

Neuroticism is also linked to a diminished quality of life, another factor that could increase the allure of substance use. Some studies show that genes can account for as much as 50 percent of a person’s risk for addiction, although the degree of genetic influence shifts in importance over time. For example, environmental factors such as family and social relationships are more strongly tied to use of alcohol and nicotine in adolescence than later in life.

Substances of abuse affect the reward system of the brain, mediated by the neurotransmitter dopamine. Substance-induced physical changes to the part of the brain that responds to dopamine (nucleus accumbens, or striatum) progressively power the motivation to seek the drug again and again, and, at the same time, lower the capacity for self-control. The physical changes to the pleasure-experiencing centers of the brain induce physical changes to the prefrontal cortex, weakening the capacity for decision-making and impulse control.

CRediT offers authors the opportunity to share an accurate and detailed description of their diverse contributions to a manuscript. When deviating from JARS/MARS guidelines, authors must provide the rationale in their cover letter and describe the limitations of doing so in their manuscript. We also recommend checking reporting guidelines from the Equator Network for your particular study design.

Similarly, unemployment is a significant independent risk factor for substance use and for relapse after treatment. Researchers have long observed that alcohol use increases during recessions. Addiction hinges on many factors, only some of which have to do with the properties of a drug.

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